How to Write an Effective Incident Report

By The GoCanvas Team on March 18, 2021
Tags: Construction, Safety

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Writing effective incident reports takes time and skill. Because these documents are so in-depth, you can feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to include. That’s why we’ve created the ultimate guide to writing incident reports. Below we’ve outlined everything you need to know about writing incident reports—and how to do so effectively. 


Procedure for creating an incident report

Having a documented procedure for creating incident reports can benefit your organization and help you be prepared when incidents happen. Here are four basic steps to follow when creating your incident reports:


1. Preserve the scene 

You should first limit access to the scene of the incident and preserve the location in its current state. This allows you to accurately record essential data that the investigative team will need to rely on when they are processing the claims. You should always record the date, time, and location of the incident in your report.


2. Gather witness testimony 

You will need to interview all the witnesses of an incident as soon as possible. Prompt interviewing is going to yield more accurate information and you have a higher chance of retrieving minute details that might be forgotten if a few days or weeks have passed. 


3. Acquire signatures 

Once you have gathered all the essential details, you will need to have an accurate and detailed recording of the incident. You will need to acquire the signatures from everyone that was involved in the incident, the people that were interviewed as witnesses, and the appropriate company leadership.


4. File your report

The last step is to file your report through the proper channels. Your company should have a file that is specifically designed for incident reports. Keep in mind that companies with more than ten employees are also required to file their incident reports to the OSHA database. 


7 Things every incident report needs to include

Thorough incident reporting is necessary because it provides essential information that is used by companies, organizations, insurance firms, and other entities that need to be involved in an incident investigation. Here are seven things every incident report must include:


1. Names and positions of people involved 

You should record everyone involved in an incident, including employees that were injured or employees that caused injury or damage. You should also include the names of the company management or the people that were in supervisory roles during the time of the incident.


2. Location of the incident 

You should write down the address and the specific location on site where the incident occurred. It’s important for reporting purposes to note both the physical address of the property and also the exact location on the property where the incident occurred.


3. Names of witnesses

You should document the names of anyone that saw the incident or even the events that happened leading up to it. When you are gathering witness testimony, you should record the names, positions, and contact information for anyone providing testimony in your incident report. This allows you to have their contact information available in case you need to follow up with them for any reason. 


4. Time and date of the incident 

You must include the exact date and time of the incident in your report. You should record the time the incident happened or when it began, and you should also note when other key events occurred throughout the incident.


5. Clear description of exactly what happened 

Your incident report should always prioritize facts and report on the objective truth. It’s a good best practice to include every minute detail in your report, even if you think it’s irrelevant or may not have any bearing on the investigation. Every detail is going to contribute to the whole picture and a clear description of exactly what happened will allow investigators to conduct their research with total accuracy and integrity. Providing details upfront can also help your insurance company process claims faster and ensure that the issue can be resolved in a timely manner.


6. Description of injuries 

It’s important for you to describe the injuries that were sustained by any of the team members during the incident. Insurance companies will need to refer to this information when a claim is filed, and they will match it with medical records to ensure they’re providing the correct compensation. 


7. Administered treatments 

You need to formally record all medical care that has been provided to your employees. In some cases, it may have been a minor injury that only required bandages, whereas other cases could have resulted in a major injury that required an ambulance to provide professional medical help. Regardless of the severity of the incident, you always need to document the type of medical treatment that has been administered to your injured team members.


Reporting mistakes to avoid 

Creating an incident report requires significant time and energy to produce, so it’s easy to understand how mistakes are made when creating these long and detailed documents. Here are the most common mistakes to look out for and avoid when you are compiling your next incident report:


1. Emotional reporting 

Dealing with an accident in the workplace that has resulted in injury or harm is likely to make us emotional as human beings. But when you’re filling out the incident report, it’s imperative that you leave your personal feelings behind and include only the facts.


2. Jumping to conclusions 

Making assumptions about an incident or an employee puts everyone at risk. Keep in mind that an incident report is meant to serve as a record of events and not an indictment against an employee, company, or anyone else. You should do your best to present only the facts and leave judgment to the appropriate parties.


3. Forgetting an interview 

It can be easy to get caught up in the process of conducting interviews and forget to speak with an important witness. That’s why you should create a list of all witnesses to the event before you have even begun gathering witness testimonies. Sometimes you may think that a person has nothing valuable to contribute to the report, but you should go ahead and interview them anyway because you never know what that person has seen until you ask them yourself.


4. Withholding information

Sometimes you will come across details that seem irrelevant to the accident, but it’s important to include all of the small or insignificant details in your report. Even if the details seem insignificant to you, you never know what detail is going to be valuable information for investigators to have.


5. Failure to investigate near misses 

You still need to file an incident report, even in “near-miss” cases. Even though a near-misses didn’t result in injury or damage, you still need to report the near-miss so that your company can investigate gaps in safety protocols and prevent future accidents.


Enhancing workplace safety and employee well-being 

Incident reports prove to be an effective means of enhancing workplace safety and employee well-being. Effectively writing your incident reports is one step in creating a workplace culture that prioritizes safety. Knowing what to include, what not to include, and the procedure for creating an incident report enables you to better serve your employees and your company.